PCE gets Tough on bullies

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(From left) Bethany Lillis, Paul Kortemeier, Mara McGhee and Daniel Boughton of Bridgework Theater, a traveling troupe of actors, perform a play about bullying at Plain City Elementary. The show was performed “in the round,” with the audience surrounding a stage set up in the middle of the gym.

Students at Plain City Elementary surrounded four actors in the gymnasium on March 10 as they performed “Tough,” a production designed to help children recognize and prevent bullying.

One of four plays performed by Bridgework Theater, a traveling group of professional actors, “Tough” follows four friends, each in different roles, to illustrate the effects of bullying on those involved and to offer practical solutions to the situations. The play aims to teach students how to discourage bullying by making friends with people who could be or are being bullied, to join with others to disapprove of bullying behavior, and to ask for help from adults.

Two Plain City Elementary students, Derrick Wampler and Kaylee Griest, both 10 years old, joined the troupe for brief roles in the play. The students were chosen upon recommendation due to past acting experience.

To involve students further, the performance was followed by a question and answer session, led by the actors, in which students were asked to recall instances of violence and bullying in the play and repeat possible fixes.

After the production, students also participated in teacher-led activities created by Bridgework Theater.

“Bullying in schools has been happening for forever,” said Principal Kelly Hicks. “It’s not a major concern, but I think it happens more often that adults are aware.”

An awareness of the problem sparked four plays, developed by the group’s founding director Don Yost, devoted to the subject of bullying. The not-for-profit Bridgework Theater travels to schools in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions with the mission to perform contemporary plays that address real-life issues for young audiences.

In the conclusion of “Tough,” the character, Austin, played by actor Paul Kortemeier, reasons, “Tough doesn’t mean you have big muscles; it means you work hard to figure out problems.”

Nationally, 77 out of 100 children are bullied, and 8 percent of students miss one day of school each month for fear of being bullied and due to the effects of bullying. Every seven minutes, a child is bullied, but only 15 percent of these incidents receive intervention from peers or adults.

For more information, go online to www.bridgeworktheater.org or call 1-800-200-1602.

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